An 87-year-old Georgia woman was tasered by police on Friday while she was cutting dandelions near her home with a knife. Police say they were justified in using the taser when the woman, identified as Martha Al-Bishara, did not drop the knife when she was told. However, according to the story run by NBC News, her family says that Al-Bishara does not speak English.
She was charged with criminal trespass and obstructing an officer. The police first held her at gunpoint, then tasered her when she did not drop the knife as instructed. The blast from the taser gun knocked the elderly woman to the ground.
“An 87-year-old woman with a knife still has the ability to hurt an officer,” Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge said of the incident. “There was no anger, there was no malice in this. In my opinion, it was the lowest use of force we could have used to simply stop that threat at the time.”
But Al-Bishara’s great-nephew has a different opinion of the police’s tactics.
“If three police officers couldn’t handle an 87-year-old woman, you might want to reconsider hanging up your badge.”
87-Year-Old Woman Cutting Dandelions With Kitchen Knife Tasered by Cop https://t.co/IbybaUg28x
— Morning Answer (@MorningAnswer) August 16, 2018
Etheridge was one of the three officers to respond to the call. An employee at the Boys and Girls Club called to say there was a woman outside and she wouldn’t go away.
“She’s old so she can’t get around too well, but,” the caller can be heard saying on the 911 recording. “Looks like she’s walking around looking for something, like, vegetation to cut down or something. There’s a bag, too.”
During the confrontation, Etheridge says he took his own pocket knife out of his pocket and threw it on the ground to try to communicate what he was saying to Al-Bishara. When she didn’t comply, the decision to use the taser was made. But the elderly woman’s relatives are upset with the lack of patience shown by the police at the scene.
Al-Bishara spent two hours in jail before being released. Her family says she is still nervous about leaving the house and having trouble sleeping.
“She is OK,” said Martha Douhne, her great-granddaughter. “She is still repeating the incident over in her mind and telling us she didn’t mean for this to happen and apologizing that she didn’t want to bring this on us. She is having trouble sleeping and is stressed.”
An internal review into the matter is underway at the Chatsworth Police Department.